In the twelfth episode of the fourth season ofÂ Deep Space Nine, I can barely fathom how far this show has come. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.Â
I canâ€™t help but think back to my experience withÂ Star TrekÂ after â€œParadise Lost.â€ The vast majority of the time, Starfleet has been portrayed as a force for good in the universe. Indeed, itÂ hadÂ to be. Shows likeÂ The Original SeriesÂ andÂ The Next GenerationÂ focused on crews who acted as an extension of the organization. Theyâ€™re the arm of Starfleet, and I donâ€™t think those shows could have done the sort of critical work thatÂ Deep Space NineÂ is doing now. There were certainly episodes every so often about corrupt Starfleet officers, but they were often singular. ThatÂ oneÂ officer would be taken care of, and Starfleet would go back to being a squeaky clean body meant to be admired and emulated.
While Admiral Leyton might represent a singular antagonist force in this arc, the writers forÂ Deep Space NineÂ have composed a disaster that shows us how a wholeÂ systemÂ can be corrupted. Itâ€™s so much more terrifying because the Starfleet we see in this episode is broken, and it was broken onÂ purpose. Itâ€™s fitting that I spoke of hopelessness in the last review because the first half of this episode isÂ terrifying. At every step, Leyton and his followers demonstrate just how completely theyâ€™re controlling the situation. How can Sisko fight againstÂ Starfleet?
Let me start first with the Red Squad because WHAT A GODDAMN PLOT TWIST. I never once suspected that there was anything going on with them, and I still canâ€™t get over how truly fucked up it is that Leyton used LITERAL TEENAGERS TO SABOTAGE THE ENTIRE WORLDâ€™S POWER GRID IN ORDER TO GET WHAT HE WANTED. It is perhaps the greatest tantrum thrown by an adult inÂ Star TrekÂ history, and Iâ€™m including his behavior throughout this episode in that judgment. But what kills me and disturbs me the most is HOW MANY HUNDREDS UPON HUNDREDS OF STARFLEET OFFICERS GO ALONG WITH IT.Â ThatÂ is so much more devastating than the actions of one man. How many other Starfleet officers gave in to paranoia? How many others assumed that Earth and the Federation would be better off if they were in control of everything? How many knew they were committing sabotage and treason andÂ didnâ€™t care?
Itâ€™s just so messed up, yâ€™all. Leyton knows what heâ€™s doing, too. Why else does he order the Red Squad hidden? Why else does he lie to Benteen about theÂ Defiant? He hides the truth knowingly and consistently, and nothing demonstrates that more than when he has Sisko framed for being a Changeling. In short: Leyton is a coward, a man unable to deal with the ramifications of his actions, despite that he speaks with certainty in his voice and conviction in his actions. Heâ€™s such a despicable villain, but heâ€™s alsoÂ believable. He doesnâ€™t feel like a caricature or a stereotype; he feels like half the people running my government.
Again, this episode has far-reaching implications that the writers couldnâ€™t possibly have considered. This arc is painfully relevant to this very day. How much have we slipped into a this nightmare ourselves? How much does our own government resemble aÂ fictionalizedÂ creation? IT IS SO CREEPY, ISNâ€™T IT.
However,Â Deep Space NineÂ is not content with a moralistic tale about power and loyalty. Indeed, that is a huge part of â€œParadise Lost,â€ and Iâ€™m not trying to ignore that. (HOW POWERFUL AND AWESOME IS SISKOâ€™S SCENE IN LEYTONâ€™S OFFICE? GOD, I LOVE ANGRY SPACE DAD.) The crux of this issue is whether Sisko is loyal to the Federation or to Leyton. Hell, I think an entire thesis could be written on how Leyton exploited the very same chain of command that he claimed was responsible for the honor and goodness of Starfleet. But thereâ€™s a big scene Iâ€™ve been ignoring here because itÂ hopelesslyÂ complicates matters for everyone. I donâ€™t disagree with what Sisko does in this episode, and I think heâ€™s morally in the right.
Yet thereâ€™s a horrible complication in this story: the ChangelingsÂ areÂ on Earth. That unnerving sequence where a Changeling approaches SiskoÂ asÂ Oâ€™Brien makes this situation hopeless. If the Changelings had never been on Earth in the first place, this episode would have been neatly wrapped up in the end. Instead, the terrorist attack that started this in the first place is ignored and the Changelings get off scot-free; Leytonâ€™s plan ends up being such a huge distraction that no one even bothers to find out who caused the bombing. Plus, THERE ARE STILL AN UNTOLD NUMBER OF CHANGELINGS IN HIDING ON THE PLANET. Is this just a matter of waiting until thereâ€™s an opportune time to seek them out? How can they even do that without propping up the same draconian measures as before?
I donâ€™t have those answers, and neither does the episode. Most of this story is resolved, but the writers keep it open enough so that they can torment us with the unknown. THE CHANGELINGS ARE EVERYWHERE. Or are they???
The video for â€œParadise Lostâ€ can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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